If you’ve spent enough time
drunkenly stumbling walking around downtown late at night on the weekends, chances are you’ve seen some guy reppin’ the 80s/early 90s with a boombox on his shoulder. And if you were real lucky, you saw him break it down to some Michael Jackson.
When the weather’s nice on your typical Friday or Saturday night in the spring and early fall, “The Penn State Boombox Guy” can be seen with a girl on each arm, strutting his swag downtown blasting 80s and 90s rock, rap, and dance hits from the boombox he props on his shoulder. His real name is Brian Cronauer, a iunior politics major and Miami Dolphins fan who still loves Ray Finkle (yes, that Ray Finkle) as evidenced by the #5 Finkle t-shirt he sometimes wears.
Occasionally he finds himself in an apartment among friends of friends and that’s when he really shines. If you’ve ever seen Brian bust a move, you know he does one hell of a Michael Jackson dance routine.
He’s been dancing his entire life, Brian said, and his family has the embarrassing childhood videos to prove it. But it wasn’t until the 11th grade that he really got into it, especially imitating Michael Jackson.
“I think what really got me into Thriller was the ‘Evolution of Dance’ guy,” he said. “He did it for like, five seconds, and I was like ‘I’ve got to do that!’ ”
Cronauer doesn’t have any formal dance training, though. He just dances how he feels and the MJ moves come naturally.
“Yeah, I’m mostly self-taught — YouTube,” he said with a laugh.
His favorite thing about the whole experience is meeting new people, whether they’re drunk or sober.
“At first I did it just for myself for fun because I didn’t drink,” he said. “But now I do it for everyone.”
He’s grown used to the disbelieving expressions of those seeing him for the first time and frequently gets the “How have we never seen you before?” response. Many of the acquaintances he’s made over the weekends don’t even know him by name, but simply as “MJ.”
One of his favorite memories is meeting Stefen Wisniewski one night. Cronauer was wearing his Dolphins sweatshirt and passed the Penn State center who was sitting on a park bench. Wisniewski apparently saw the sweatshirt and mentioned something to Cronauer about possibly playing for Miami after graduation, and after a conversation struck up, invited Cronauer to have a dance party at Mama Mia’s with some other linemen.
And at Wisniewski’s request, Cronauer has also added a selection to his repertoir — Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.”
In fact, Cronauer enjoys entertaining suggestions. He has expanded beyond his initial Thriller album and other Michael Jackson tunes to include other 80s hits, as well as some childhood favorites that might bring a touch of nostalgia to those who see him dance now. Smash Mouth anyone? “All Star” is on his latest mix tape, as well as Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It” and Lou Bega’s version of Mambo #5.
Making his mix tapes is part of the fun, too. Especially since he still rocks the cassettes.
“People almost shit themselves when they see that,” he laughed.
But his equipment is important to him and people seem to recognize that. For example, when he was walking down the icy sidewalks after the bad ice storm State College had during this winter and “totally tanked,” he could hear some around him shout “Save the boombox! Is it alright? Does it still work?”
“I am getting two legit 80s boomboxes soon, though,” he assured me. “You know, with the big speakers.”
In the end, though, the most important thing to him is bringing a smile to other students’ faces.
“People always ask me ‘How drunk are you?’ and I say ‘Nah, completely sober.’ Then they say ‘You made my night, this is one of my top five nights at Penn State!’ ” he said. “That makes me feel really great.”
If you have any good song requests, feel free to Tweet them to him at @psuboomboxguy. And keep an eye out when you’re wandering the streets of State College this weekend.